This week’s ‘TOP TEN TIPS’ – All you need to know about winter walking apparel.
1. WEAR A GOOD BASE LAYER
The aim of a base layer is to wick the moisture away into the next layer of clothing and then to allow it to evaporate. This is why it is important to always select breathable garments for each layer if possible. This process will keep your skin area dry which in turn ensures you feel comfortable and do not get chilled.
2. CHOOSE THE RIGHT FABRICS
The best fabrics to wear close to the skin are merino wool, bamboo or synthetic technical fibres like microfiber, CoolTech and polyesters which will wick away moisture rather than absorb it – so not cotton which absorbs and retains moisture.
3. MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR MID LAYERS
This is the layer that provides insulation, fleeces or gilets – anything that can provide warmth without being too bulky. This layer needs to be breathable too and can be made from merino wool or microfleece fabrics which are lightweight. Look out for items that are not bulky so they will fit under top layers when required and pack away easily.
4. CHOOSE YOUR TOP LAYER
This is the most important of all the layers because it is the one that keeps the wind and rain out and ideally lets your body breathe! If you are following the layering principles, this outer jacket can literally be a ‘shell’ that is waterproof and windproof. This will also make it light and easy to pack away when not required. Waterproof and breathable fabrics like Goretex do come in a range of grades for different protection levels. Where possible seek advice from outdoor store professionals who really understand the technology. As with most things, the price is generally a good guide to the level of protection the fabric will provide!
5. TOP LAYER – ‘SOFT SHELL’
‘Soft shell’ items are really useful. They are generally water resistant, windproof, lightweight and breathable. These are great for everyday wear but are less likely to keep you totally dry in foul weather unless you invest in the latest highly technical ranges. These are really comfortable to wear on chilly days where maybe only a light shower is forecast.
6. TOP LAYER – ‘HARD SHELL’ – For really wet days, a hard shell with layers beneath is recommended. The key features to look out for in hard shell jackets are, sealed zips (including on pockets), 100% waterproof (not shower proof) and breathability. You do also need the fit to be loose enough to allow you to add layers beneath when required, but not so loose that it flaps.
7. WATERPROOF TROUSERS
It is handy to have waterproof over trousers if you get caught in a real downpour. These are designed to pop over your usual trousers or leggings. The best ones have an elasticated waistband plus poppers or studs up the sides of the legs so you can get them on quickly if the heavens open.
An alternative way to protect the lower legs when walking in longer grass or through bracken is to wear a pair of waterproof gaiters which clip under your shoes or boots and zip up at the sides. These also prevent water from entering the top of your footwear so are great in snow too.
In cold weather, a thermal fleece or softshell hat which covers the ears is recommended and ideally one which is waterproof too.
Go for thin, flexible but warm, lightweight and ideally waterproof.